Outsourcing has become a large part of reducing cost for manufactured goods. While it became a great way for consumers to buy lower priced products, the caveat to outsourcing is that foreign competitors don’t always follow the same work standards or use the same high quality materials to ensure high quality products. China has been synonymous with low priced goods, but outsourcing there may be rife with problems from beginning to end. There are a many potential problems that can occur, and these are the most common problems you may see when buying injection molds from China.
You Get False Answers from a Vendor That Just Wants Your Business
They will tell you what they think you want to hear, so asking for a quote on a new product may end up initially lower, but that can change. Your vendor may believe you just want a low price, and that’s what they will offer you. In business, that can translate into a quick agreement on a deadline that can’t be met, at a lower cost that can’t honored, or a complete misunderstanding from beginning to end.
A translator may be able to head off some of the problems as they would be able to speak both languages to effectively communicate. That doesn’t guarantee that both sides will understand the differences, and that can still lead to trouble getting a realistic quote for time requirements and investment capital. Be sure to find a mold partner that can speak the languages and understands the cultural norms for both countries. That will help when negotiating a price that is accurate.
Your Initial Quoted Price is Far Less than the Final Price
There can be a few reasons for your project to go over budget. Small price variances do occur because of material price fluctuations in the market and labor costs, but in some cases small variances turn into double and triple the initial price. How can that happen? Often the quoted price doesn’t include everything. A vendor may only quote the cost of the injection molding tool itself, but not include the design portion of the project or other steps in the complete project. Materials can also be from inconsistent sourcing, and the vendor may just shop around to find the cheapest material cost for your quote that won’t be available when you commission the injection molding tools.
The best scenario will be a vendor that quotes every step in the process accurately and details what each step will entail. Research and design, manufacturing of the molds, testing fees, etc. A quote should outline each piece and how it adds up to the total price. The elite partners in the industry will also suggest changes due to design flaws and potential problems that can occur in manufacturing. Be sure to find a vendor that has your best interest in mind, not just one who offers the lowest pricing.
Your Injection Molds Perform Poorly
Once you get through the quoting and commission your tool, the exciting part of the first test comes. That’s when you find out how well your tools are going to perform. Elite partners will offer tools that excel from the first shots off the mold, but often times the tools immediately show problems. Flashing at the parting lines, burning of the resin, short shots, sinks in the A-class surfaces, and other problems common with poorly performing injection molds. They are time and resource wasters that cost you money in production trying to separate the good from the bad products.
An elite vendor will model your mold design and find the limitations through a mold flow analysis. The initial analysis will find trouble areas that may produce short shots and burns on the material. A quality vendor will also showcase tools that perform well without extensive repairs to correct problems from the mold making process.
Unpredictable Lifecycles from Your Injection Molds
Overseas vendors don’t always follow the same standards for labor and materials, and that can spell disaster for your injection molds. If the tooling vendor is shopping for the lowest price on materials, the quality for the tool steel may vary wildly on what is available at the time it’s needed. One tool may last the quoted length, and another could last half of the time needed.
Your best option is to find a tooling vendor that is trained in US mold-building standards and follows these standards for every tool and mold they produce. Quality should be a daily business standard, not just an extra detail when you ask for it in your quote. A quality injection mold manufacturer also retains top talent year after year, and they should be able to outline their employee experience and retention to prove why they are the best for your new product. This retention will produce elite injection molds from talented toolmakers rather than fresh employees continually in training.
Your Tooling Vendor Refuses to Allow Your Tools to Leave
We’ve heard plenty of horror stories about buying injection molds from China and vendors refusing to let tools leave and go to another injection mold manufacturer. Contracts may dictate that you commissioned the tool, but you may not actually own the rights to the tool itself. The fine print wasn’t clear, and you just assumed it was your money and you bought the tool. That may not be the case, or the overseas vendor won’t let it go if they can’t meet the quoted performance. We’ve also heard of scenarios that the original tool vendor did allow tools to leave, but no other manufacturers would allow the tools into their facility because of a poor reputation. It’s either their own tools or nothing, and they wouldn’t repair or work with anything their own toolmakers didn’t create.
Your designs and intellectual property are important, and signing contracts should indicate a guarantee of performance without limitations. Your new vendor should be willing to offer a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) at your first meeting to discuss your new innovative product. A willingness to sign an NDA indicates their integrity to keep your product safe and offer high quality tools. If you should need to move your tools, they’ll let them go without a problem and another manufacturer should be able to use the tools immediately. If a new vendor isn’t interested in an NDA, you may want to keep looking for a new partner. Your assets and designs may not stay secure in the end.
If you’ve experienced any of these scenarios when buying injection molds from China, you’re not alone. It’s been a common problem since outsourcing began decades ago. Sometimes cultural differences can lead to quotes being lost in translation, and in the end tools that don’t perform as quoted. Can you rescue the tools if needed? Maybe. You may find that you’re stuck with an under performing tool in an less than adequate shop. In the case you need someone to intervene to recover an injection mold tool from overseas, SEA-LECT Plastics can assist you with our proven injection mold recover service and return them back to you.
It may be hard to determine if outsourcing your new tools overseas is the best course of action. SEA-LECT Plastics is here to help. We have an elite team that produces world-class prototypes and products, and can offer support to decide who and where to send your future business. Give us a call at (425) 339-0288 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to offering support and advice on your next project. In the end, the material and process chosen will benefit your product design by having a prototype made to show employees, potential customers, current clients, and future investors.
Matthias Poischbeg was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. Matt moved to Everett, Wash., after finishing his bachelor’s degree in business in 1995 to work for Sea-Dog Corporation, a manufacturer, and distributor of marine and rigging hardware established in 1923.
In 1999, Matt took over the reins at Sea-Lect Plastics Corporation, a sister company of Sea-Dog and a manufacturer of plastic injection molded products with an in-house tool & die shop. Matthias Poischbeg is also a contributor to Grit Daily.